Amazon Cloud Drive recently added new pricing, features, and storage plans. The service now seeks to challenge OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox in the increasingly competitive cloud storage market. Is this a service you should consider to store and back up your files? We’ll take a look in this in-depth review.
- Cheapest unlimited cloud storage service available ($60/year)
- $12 / year for unlimited photo backup + 5 GB extra
- Auto-image backup with mobile apps
- Quick upload and download performance
- No file size or quantity limits
- Secure and stable thanks to S3 backend
- No access restrictions on shared files
- Sharing via e-mail redirects to e-mail provider
- Simplistic desktop software is a one-way uploader with no file syncing
- No offline file access
- Terms of Service limits service to non-commercial use only
Amazon Cloud Drive now offers the cheapest unlimited storage plans available, and for what it does, it’s does well. But with limited sharing options, no file syncing or offline access, no way to play or view files from anything other than the website, it’s not versatile enough to shake up Amazon’s much more feature packed competitors. But, if you’re looking for a no-frills unlimited storage bucket to offload files onto, this service will be the cheapest around and works perfectly fine.
Amazon’s Jump into Consumer Cloud Storage
While Amazon has dominated the professional cloud storage market for the past five years with its cheap, flexible, and extensible Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), they’ve never had much of a presence in the consumer cloud market. Their only consumer offering, Amazon Cloud Drive, has included the same 5 GB of free storage, unlimited storage for Amazon content, $1 per GB per year pricing for extra storage since its inception in 2011. Meanwhile, Amazon’s competitors have been adding features, cutting prices, and improving usability by integrating cloud technology within our software and all the devices we use on a daily basis. And until now, Amazon was getting undercut on price by other cloud services by as much as 90%.
In Synergy Research’s latest report, Microsoft and Google are starting to push against Amazon’s dominating market share, both obtaining 96% and 88% growth respectably, versus Amazon’s more moderate but still respectable 51% growth. Now, the truth is that Amazon still has an 18% market share advantage against their nearest competitor, but it’s clear why Amazon has finally updated its consumer pricing. And now in an attempt to gain back some of its lost ground, Amazon has announced two unlimited storage pricing plans, and they’re dirt cheap.
Amazon first announced a standalone unlimited photo storage plan for $11.99 a year, with 5 GB of storage for documents, videos, and other files. This plan is currently provided to Amazon Prime subscribers included in their $99 a year subscription, which also includes free 2-day shipping, discounts, video streaming, and other benefits.
However, not everyone cares about Amazon Prime, especially not busy families, non-Amazon shoppers, or even photography enthusiasts who may like to store, share, or simply backup as many photos as they deem necessary. The 5 GB of extra space is a nice caveat, especially since many of these same users will find 5GB of space good enough to store other important documents. At $12 a year, it’s pretty hard to beat unlimited storage, even if it is just for photos.
But just as their Unlimited Photo plan was designed for the average user, their Unlimited Everything plan was designed for almost everyone else. $60 a year will get you unlimited storage. Period. Unlimited documents, pictures, videos, cat videos, weird medical receipts, Justin Beiber songs, whatever floats your boat. For $60 a year. That’s $5 a month. That’s pretty huge.
And best of all, Amazon is offering users a free 3-month trial of either of their new plans, with an automatic, but preventable, renewal after the trial is up. Which is smart. Once people start ditching their stuff on Amazon servers, it’s quite likely they’ll be fully willing to continue doing so.
How It Stacks Up
Amazon’s efforts don’t exist in a vacuum, despite how strong their market share is. But as said before, Amazon is competing primarily with price.
Most consumer cloud providers seem to be adopting a $0.10 / GB model, with Dropbox, Google Drive, and Bitcasa all offering 1 TB for $10 per month. Google Drive also offers plans up to 30 TB for an astonishing $300 a month, while Bitcasa caps out at 10 TB for $100 a month or a discounted $1,000 for a full year.
|Cost per Month
|Cost per Year
|Amazon Cloud Drive
|OneDrive (Office 365 Personal)
Microsoft is the only storage provider that comes close in cost to Amazon’s offering, and that’s because you can get 1 TB OneDrive storage by virtue of an Office 365 subscription, which starts out at $70 a year. While Microsoft’s package is an incredible value, it’s still $10 a year more than Amazon’s, and that assumes you want or need Microsoft’s productivity software.
The biggest sticking point of Amazon’s new Cloud Drive model is the feature set. Amazon Cloud Drive still lacks many of the more robust features that other storage providers have like file access restricting, folder sharing, multi-user collaboration, or automatic file syncing. Sharing via e-mail will open up your e-mail provider’s webpage instead of sharing via the interface. Even their desktop and mobile apps are super simple, only allowing you to upload files. You can’t download or even view the files on your Drive using the desktop program.
Furthermore, unlike Google Drive or OneDrive, Amazon doesn’t have the power of an Android or Office to push the convenience of software integration. And for an extra $10 a year, OneDrive offers a much richer cloud feature set, and a full Office Suite. Finally, I feel like this service has blocked out a potential core audience by limiting it to private, non-commercial uses (i.e. no businesses, small or large) through their terms of service. There’s even a specific restriction in their terms of service that prevents Cloud Drive’s use for 3rd party file sharing and photography businesses.
A Big Leap in the Clouds
But Amazon’s offering is not about features, it’s about filling a gap in the cloud market that hasn’t been filled before. This is for those who want a huge bucket of online storage without any frills, without an ecosystem buy-in, and without some extra stuff they may not want to pay extra for. The fact is, Amazon is now the cheapest way to get unlimited storage. And while $10 a year between Amazon and its 2nd place market share competitor may not sound like a lot, it does add up over time, especially if you’re not invested or interested in Microsoft software. Let’s also not forget that Microsoft is literally the only close competitor to Amazon here, and that every other cloud service available is charging the same or more for limited storage. Is 1TB enough for most users? Probably, but that’s not the point. Just as unlimited data plans have become a huge selling point for smaller mobile operators, I expect that unlimited storage will be a huge draw for consumers. Nobody likes to be rationed.
Regardless, this is a big leap forward for the cloud storage market. Finally, providers are starting to recognize the value of unlimited storage, and for that matter, the bar of entry is now down to $5 a month.
But I also want to stress the importance of the underestimated Unlimited Photo plan. While it focuses on a single category of file, it offers unlimited storage for that one category while also lowering the bar of entry for an unlimited plan to a ridiculously low $1 per month. Regardless of how you feel about Amazon’s service, Amazon’s announcement will create waves within the cloud storage market, and all cloud storage consumers will benefit from the competition.
|Amazon Cloud Drive
|Average Upload Speed
|12 Mbps (10 Mbps connection)
|Average Download Speed
|62 Mbps (50 Mbps connection)
|Free Online Storage
|Android, iOS, Kindle
|Keep Deleted Files
|Back Up to Local Drive
Sync and Share Features
|Public File Sharing
|Data Center Location(s)
|Global (uses Amazon S3)